Trails get a trimming at Helderberg Nature Reserve

The Volunteer Wildfire Services crew that conducted trail clearing operations in the Helderberg Nature Reserve on Saturday July 4. Back, from left are, Grant Cousins, Kiall Hoffmann, Louise Beyers, Max Brock, Mia Cloete, and Greta Brock. In front, Norman McFarlane and Henrietta Brock.

The Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) Grabouw firebase, located at the City of Cape Town’s Helderberg Nature Reserve is assisting with the maintenance of trails in need of trimming after the reserve was closed in compliance with the national lockdown regulations.

There has been no staff on site, thus, no foot traffic for a long time and many of the trails have become overgrown.

There is now a backlog on work which requires completion, and multiple VWS crews have been deployed over the past three weeks, most recently on Saturday July 4. The work includes the cutting open of trails that have become overgrown. 

The Volunteer Wildfire Services is a Section 21 non-profit company with over 200 volunteer members who assist various municipalities and conservation agencies with the management of wildfires. 

The Grabouw firebase, which focuses its activities mainly in the greater Winelands, Overberg and Helderberg areas, has established its base at the Helderberg Nature Reserve. 

The VWS uses the nature reserve extensively to train and practise routine deployment operations, particularly during training season, which normally extends from May to October. 

The VWS is usually involved with the management of wildfires during the hot and dry summer months and during these times they are usually deployed in areas that are hard to reach with firefighting vehicles. 

For the VWS, keeping fit and remaining active during winter is crucial to ensure they are ready for the coming summer fire season.

“I am so proud of the Grabouw firebase members for redirecting their time and energy towards helping our staff address the backlog. In so doing, we ensure that the reserve is ready to receive visitors once the regulations are eased to allow the public to explore the hiking trails and more. Their help could not have come at a better time.

“The lockdown period coincides with the time of year when the nature reserve staff would usually have started the annual trail maintenance. 

“We have to make do with a significantly reduced team due to the fact that the Covid-19 regulations allow only limited staff in the facility at any given time.

“The VWS is making it easy for a smooth running of service when the time comes. Their efforts will go a long way in ensuring that we provide safe and comfortable trails for nature enthusiasts to enjoy as this is a key priority for the nature reserve,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt. 

The Helderberg Nature Reserve remains closed in compliance with the national lockdown regulations. 

It has a variety of popular trails which suit everyone, including young children and avid advanced hikers and trail runners. 

The nature reserve is supported by the Somerset West community and boasts a Friend’s group with over 5 000 members.

Visitors come from across Cape Town and abroad to enjoy a pleasant nature experience among the rich and beautiful fynbos. Picnicking on the lawns in the lower sections of the reserve is also very popular.

There is a small information centre and gift shop, as well as a small restaurant.